Flexibility in problem solving

teacher-1415225-mWe have just had another session of Reading Recovery professional development. We looked at many examples of excellent teaching strategies, including a webcast of Mary Fried (Ohio State University) presenting Flexibility in Problem Solving During Writing.

She gave some examples of what we might expect our students to contribute to their own writing during various stages within their series of lessons. (This is only a guide. Some students will be able to contribute more themselves earlier in the lessons, and some students may need longer time.)

This sentence example could have been composed at any stage of the lessons but we would expect the student to demonstrate an increasing amount of problem solving. In the following examples Mary Fried has anticipated what a student at various levels might contribute. This is demonstrated by the red letters / words / word parts. The fictional teacher chose the underlined words to work on.


My mum took me to the library yesterday. I got movies and books.

The student would be asked- Can you write ___? (mum, me, the) Another question would be- What can you hear? (Some 1st and last sounds.)

EARLY STAGE (Levels 3-6)

My mum t-oo-k me to the library yesterday. I g-o-t movies and books.

Sound boxes could possibly be used for took and got.

MID STAGE (Levels 6-11)

My mum took me to the library yesterday. I got movies and books.

Analogy would be prompted- If you know look, you can write took. Look at how you wrote took. It will help you to write books. Clap the 3 parts of yes-ter-day. Can you write yes …and… day? Sound boxes would be used for movies.

LATER STAGE (Levels 12-16) (16-20)

My mum took me to the library yesterday. I got movies and books.

Clap yes-ter-day. Try it on the practice page. Try writing movies in letter boxes. The student might write move_es independently.

The students always contribute the parts that they can. At first they may only write a few letters that they can hear. They may already know how to write some words. Some words may only be tentatively known (or mostly known), and the student may be asked to write it a number of times in order to learn it.

Some words may be partly solved and the teacher contributes the tricky parts, e.g. ter in school_clipart_boy_writtingyesterday. Some words are easier to solve if you clap the parts, e.g. yes-ter-day. Some words are solved using sound boxes (What can you hear?). Some words are easier to solve if you compare it to a word you already know, e.g. look / took / books and some words are solved using letter boxes (What would you expect to see?)

The teacher needs to adjust her prompts throughout the series of lessons. The aim is to teach the students how to be flexible when solving words by using a variety of strategies.

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